Aldi confirms location in Oxford, set to open before June
by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com
Jan 02, 2014 | 13536 views |  0 comments | 97 97 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The future site of an Aldi grocery store near the intersection of Alabama 21 and U.S. 78 in Oxford. Photo by Joey D'Anna.
The future site of an Aldi grocery store near the intersection of Alabama 21 and U.S. 78 in Oxford. Photo by Joey D'Anna.
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OXFORD — Workers trudged through mud Thursday as they continued construction on Oxford’s new Aldi grocery store.

Aldi spokeswoman Hannah Dewey said the store, at Alabama 21 and Hamric Drive, will likely open before June.

The German-based grocery chain found its niche by catering to cost-conscious shoppers, said David Livingston, supermarket analyst for DJL Research.

“Their primary focus is price, and nobody can seem to beat them on pricing. Not even Walmart,” Livingston said. “It’s all through efficiency.”

The first Aldi opened in 1961 in the German town of Mulheim. In 1976, Aldi opened its first store in the U.S., and today the company operates more than 1,200 stores in 32 states.

An Aldi opened in Cullman in May, and another in Fultondale in September. The company opened a second location in Huntsville in November, bringing the total number of stores in the state to 13.

The company announced in December plans to open 650 new stores across the country in the next five years, creating an estimated 10,000 jobs.

Livingston credits the company’s growth in the U.S. to its focus on keeping operating costs low, then passing those savings on to customers.

Aldi, short for Albrecht Discount, sells fewer and often store-brand items in one size only, and the company charges customers for shopping bags and requires them to bag their own groceries, Livingston said.

To use a shopping cart, customers must insert a quarter into a slot, returned only when the cart is replaced.

Aldi stores are typically between 10,000 and 16,000 square feet, smaller than most other grocery stores, and are staffed with between three and five employees each.

There are no in-store banks, pharmacies or check-cashing services, Livingston said, and Aldi accepts no credit cards or checks, which can charge stores fees. (The stores do accept debit and EBT cards.)

Aldi’s growth is a reflection of the company’s ability to fulfill customer desires, explained Nancy King Dennis, a spokeswoman with the Alabama Retail Association.

“That’s an outgrowth of the idea that consumers want a bargain,” Dennis said. “If the consumer perceives that if he bags his own groceries and is getting the same or equal product for a lesser price, that’s what they’re going to want to do.”

A 2011 survey of shoppers by Market Force Information lists Aldi as one of the top five grocery chains in the country. Shopper surveys in 2011 and 2012 by Market Force found that Aldi beat out Walmart in the low-price category.

One of the ways the company keeps costs low is to keep employees busy, Livingston said. Aldi has the highest sales-per-man-hour of any grocery retailer in the country, he said.

“Which means they have to hire very productive people,” Livingston said.

Aldi typically locates near Walmart stores to benefit from the concentration of traffic, Livingston said. The local site for the new Aldi is about a mile from the Oxford Walmart.

According to Livingston, the company also owns about 65 percent of their stores rather than leasing them.

“That keeps their occupancy cost down,” he said. “They have no debt, so they don’t have to go out and borrow money when they want to expand.”

Added Livingston, “Every now and then I’ll see a few things that I might be able to get cheaper someplace else, but it’s rare, and it’s not worth the drive across town to get it.”

Aldi will take applications for cashiers from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 9 at the Hampton Inn at 210 Colonial Drive in Oxford. A separate job fair for shift managers and manager trainees will take place Jan. 31 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hampton Inn.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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